Paul Molitor was adamant that Eddie Rosario deserved to be an All-Star this year.
He’s hitting .311/.353/.537 with 19 home runs at the break, but faced stiff competition as a member of the Final Vote. Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew Benintendi, two big names from the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, finished ahead of him, and Jean Segura of the Seattle Mariners won the final spot.
Maybe if the Minnesota Twins had a better record, they would have more than one All-Star. Perhaps if Rosario was a bigger-name prospect, like Byron Buxton or Miguel Sano, he’d have gotten more votes. But Buxton has been injured, Sano overweight and undisciplined, and they are both in the minors.
It’s been Rosario carrying the Twins offense.
“I look at everything he’s accomplished in the first half of this year: He’s amongst the league leaders in several categories, he leads the Twins in almost every offensive category,” said Molitor, making a pitch for Rosario a week ago. “It doesn’t even include what an exciting player he is — what he can do on the bases, what he can do on defense.”
While Rosario’s play can be exciting, he can also get a little overambitious. He has been known to miss cutoff men, get lost on the basepaths and, ah, have trouble with bat flips.
“I kind of look it as less than it used to be as far as things that don’t seem to go in sync with making a good decision. But how many times has he made decisions that have been maybe he’s the only guy on the field who would try it, but they’ve worked out?” said Molitor. “So, you’d have to probably give something to get something there. But what I like is I rarely have to go to him on something that he does and right after the fact, he realizes. He’ll come and he’ll acknowledge it.”
But Molitor says he is learning how to balance discipline and excitement, and is starting to think the game better.
“We’ll talk about it if he wants to,” he said. “It used to be you’d have to explain it. You’d say, ‘you know, we got to keep the force in order,’ or look at the scoreboard in the inning and he goes, ‘I thought I had a chance.’ I said, ‘A chance isn’t good enough in that situation.’ Those were the conversations we used to have and now he sees how a game works and decisions that back up trying to win, especially when you have a chance to close out games late.
“I’ll take the aggressiveness. I’ll take some of those type plays. We saw, he’s an exciting player and sometimes those guys that put themselves out there in situations other guys don’t, you’re going to have to accept that it’s not always going to work out.”
Rosario leads the Twins in all major offensive categories, and is eighth in the American League in batting average, 11th in wins above replacement, 12th in RBI and 14th in home runs.
“For me to imagine that there’s X amount of players on that All-Star team that are better is almost unfathomable for me,” added Molitor. “It’s the way the system goes. It’s not fair. There’s guys that get snubbed every year, the system is not perfect.”
The Twins put on a campaign to get Rosario into the game.
It was called “Accept This Rosie,” a reference to “The Bachelorette,” the players all wore tuxedo shirts and Rosario handed out roses to fans in the crowd. The current contestant, Prior Lake’s Becca Kufrin, even stumped for him.
But, alas, the effort came up short.
Rosario handled the process with grace, but felt he belonged in the game.
“I feel like I’m in the Final Five because I deserve to be there,” he said. “I know my numbers are there, I thought I was good in the first half, and it’s not in my hands.”
The team even made a push for Eduardo Escobar, who carried the Twins lineup this year, filled in for Sano at third base and is among the most liked players in the clubhouse. But in the end, Jose Berrios is the only All-Star representative for the Twins.
It’s the first appearance for Berrios, 24, who has a 9-7 record and 3.68 ERA in his third major league season. After posting an 8.02 ERA in his first major league season, Berrios had a 3.89 ERA and 14 wins last season, suggesting that he could become the staff ace for years to come.
Berrios is known for his intense conditioning and preparation. He can be seen in the clubhouse using foam rollers, muscle sticks and small massage balls to keep limber, and is often in a full sweat before his interviews after his starts.
“I guess my first thought is isn’t that what everybody should do?” asked Molitor. “We do pay attention to the guys that seem to be upper tier in terms of their commitment to doing everything they can to prepare, whether it’s how they take care of their arm or their body or whatever the case may be.
“I don’t know why somebody wouldn’t want to give themselves the best chance to get the best out of themselves. But I think he’s learned from people along the way, whether it’s Ervin [Santana] or other people, that if you put the time in you never have to second guess yourself when the results don’t go your way that you didn’t do your part.”
Molitor even evoked a name from the past when describing Berrios’ routine.
“Go back to the Johan Santana days and the people that just had an understanding: They were going to get here early and they were going to do everything they can,” he said. “We’ve all seen his videos from his workouts in the winter and things that he does. I think everybody realizes when you get into 175-200 inning seasons, 200-plus, that routine is what’s going to sustain you. That’s when it starts to really show up for me.”
Berrios has demurred when his nomination has come up.
“It feels weird when I hear it: ‘Jose Berrios is an All-Star,’” he said after a recent start. “But I’m proud of it.”
“He’s an easy guy to pull for because of those things,” says Molitor. “I like the humility aspect too. I think he does know he’s good but he’s not assuming that his next start is going to be — he just always knows, hey, don’t let your guard down. He’s always ready. And he learns when it’s good and bad and he keeps pushing.”
Molitor, a seven-time All-Star, says he doesn’t spend much time thinking about the Midsummer Classic — he just wants his guys to get in.
“Some of these topics, you don’t really think a lot about unless you’re asked, and then it’s kind of,” he pauses to think. “I kind of like it. You’re playing a game with this type of exposure, and to have every uniform out there, even if it doesn’t mean a lot to a lot of people.
“I’d rather see him increase the roster before they take that away. There’s arguments that, if every team is gonna be represented, can you just maybe take the best guy, instead of having to find the right piece that fits into who else you didn’t take or did take? Things like that.”
In the end, he feels the Twins should have two this year: Berrios, a potential staff ace, and Rosario, who is establishing himself as part of Minnesota’s future.